I’m sorry it has taken so long to respond to your message asking how we are. I’ve been finding it increasingly hard to write to people overseas. This might be because the answer is, I’m okay. Zero new cases in New Zealand for a week now. This country has never felt more like an island.
My sense of anxiety is now coupled with dissonance when I turn on my phone in the morning to all my newsfeeds. A few days ago we got a WhatsApp video message from my brother in Colombia showing him being sprayed all over with disinfectant by men in white boiler suits. My father messaged back that the public disinfecting is meant to be useless anyway. And asking how my brother was.
But as of last week, the first thing I now do after breakfast is bike our girls to school, which has re-opened after seven weeks. Some days we’ve walk there through the hills, where when we’re high enough we see open ocean. I have to leave the kids at the school gate, and keep 2 metres from other parents, but my kids’ lives are now not much different from before. T. and I are still working from home, but university classes may start again in person in July. Maybe. All going well. There’s this feeling of lightening, as though it might actually be possible we’ve eliminated the virus here. We’re able to visit my parents again and we just booked a holiday to the South Island for July.
I went to the movies with a friend yesterday. Contact tracing App. Very spaced out cinema. But the movies nonetheless – sitting together in a large room with other people watching a casually flickering screen. We saw Emma because we were seeking comfort. As we left, carefully leaving room for others as we funnelled through the exit, everyone was smiling in this kind of drugged-up way. There’s a chance that in a few weeks I may be allowed to hug my friend.
There are lots of job cuts, of course. Our economy is incredibly dependent on tourism. The media and hospitality and arts sectors are all in serious trouble. There have been griefs of all kinds here too. But I wanted to write you some of the good things, with some intimation of how it might feel for things, sometime in the future, to ‘ease’. Of course, what’s really strange here is the sense that we’re passed it, we’ve escape it, when that can’t really be true. There’s also the on-going and troubling question of what it means to have sealed ourselves off and become a place of some kind of eerie purity. I keep thinking about the idea of a ‘bubble’. A thin sphere of liquid enclosing air but touching nothing within. And, a “fortunate situation” “isolated from reality or unlikely to last.” But I won’t go there now. I hope this letter is a window of a sort, to look out through.
Here’s a photo from a few days ago when I’d just had my first haircut in 3 months – both myself and the hairdresser wearing masks. I’m choosing this rather than a photo during the haircut itself.
Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei (that is all for now)
Ngā manaakitanga (with best wishes)
Kia kaha (stay strong).